Deep POV

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One of the advantages of belonging to a writers’ group is that every member has different strengths and areas of expertise. As a result, we are continually learning from one another. For example, I learned about Deep POV (Point of View) from one of my colleagues.

I was already familiar with First Person, Third Person, and Omniscient, but the term “Deep POV” was unfamiliar to me. Now that I know about it, I strive to achieve it, but it’s not an easy technique to master.

Another term for “Deep POV” is limited Third Person. It’s a technique that infuses Third Person POV with the intimacy of First Person

Unlike “ordinary” Third Person, limited Third Person does away with dialogue tags and verbs such as see, notice, understand, feel, realize and think, which suggest “telling” as opposed to “showing.” Compare the following passages. Both are written in Third Person.

Judy ran down the alley. She thought she could hear footsteps behind her. She realized now that she should have stayed on the main street. Her tight skirt and high heels were slowing her down.

Judy picked up her pace. Footsteps sounded in her ears. Imagination? Maybe, but what if that spooky-looking man at the corner had followed her into the alley? Damn this tight skirt. She could hardly move her knees, let alone run. And these heels! What had possessed her to buy anything this high? Momma warned her about vanity.

Writing in limited Third Person usually involves the expenditure of more words, but, if done effectively, the extra words add to the reader’s enjoyment by pulling him more deeply into the events narrated.

Deep POV is to the writer what method acting is to the actor. It requires the writer to submerge herself in the character from whose point of view a scene is being seen. It requires a casting off of all inhibitions. The writer becomes the character.

A useful exercise for the writer who prefers to write in Third Person is to write a scene in First Person, and then change all the nouns and pronouns to Third Person.

For more on Deep POV, check out these links:
Karen Kelley (Update: no longer active)
Women on Writing

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19 thoughts on “Deep POV”

  1. It doesn’t seem that the second example is strictly third person — “Damn this tight skirt” strikes me as a pretty weak display of Deep POV.

  2. great summing up in such few words!
    I have tried to teach others about this POV, but it is hard to get across how it’s done.

    I learned about deep POV in a writing class at uni. I can really recommend it also for works that are not actually intended to be written in that POV: it eases you into a story when you’re stuck. Your char becomes so much alive he/she will suggest the next steps to you – hell, they will just run ahead and do some stuff that you never plotted for the book. 😉

  3. This is the POV that comes most naturally to me. Perhpas i’d have been a method actor, if i’d been an actor.

    Great to find it’s something that others have to learn! (Like finding backhand easiest in tennis, when i used to play – people saw my backhand and assumed everything else was better, so they got the impression i was very good at tennis. But everything else (forehand, service) was worse than my backhand and i really wasn’t that good. It was still nice to get the compliments.)

  4. “The sound of footsteps sounded in her ears.”


    I’m very surprised this was not improved before being uploaded!

  5. What does “deep POV” mean? I’m afraid I have never heard the term. As initials go, it sounds like “point of view”. very interesting.


  6. I love this example; it really inspires me to be ‘alive’ in my writing. Thanks for sending this. My husband often cautions, “Show, don’t tell.”

  7. I write everything in deep pov. When I first started I wrote only 3rd person, and my first editor gave me a few tips. Before I knew it I had absorbed more than she probably intended in that tiny lesson and delved into a world I now know is deep POV. I didn’t even know it had a name. I just wrote what I felt.

    It’s exciting to know that for at least this one thing, I have what the publishers are looking for. Now if only NY would look for the TYPE of material I write, that would be even better.

    But you are correct – the author must put themselves in the position of the character which is exciting and fun, but when you write borderline horror, like I do, that can be quite nerve wracking. We won’t even whisper about the # of nightmares I’ve had after writing a really rough scene.

  8. I love writing first person because I can really get in the story & the characters. When I tried third person it just felt flat. I couldn’t really get into the writing because it felt to impersonal.

    But I think I get it now (:

    Its my new goal to write in Deep POV!

  9. I never noticed before now, but I’ve been writing in ‘Deep POV’ for a while… Except limited to two characters instead of only one. But only the two.
    I also prefer first person, but sometimes it’s refreshing to write in third person 🙂

  10. I can think of some authors I enjoy who often write in this mode. C.J. Cherryh (a SFF writer) comes to mind. It seems that it would give the writer some of the advantages of first person, such as immediacy and immersion in the character, while allowing him/her to have more than one POV character in a story.

    The disadvantage would be the difficulty in providing background or extraneous information that the character wouldn’t be thinking about at a given time but still may be important for the reader to know. Do you suggest staying in deep POV for an entire novel or would pulling out of it be appropriate for transitional scenes and so forth? I guess I’ll need to re-read some books by authors who use this mode and see how they do it.

  11. Gotta say I far prefer your first example to the deep third version. It’s more concise, dynamic, realistic, and allows the reader to enter the scene without the character’s thoughts getting in the way. Deep third can be very effective (I’ve used it on occasion myself) but mostly it appears to be an apology for sloppy writing, for clogging up the narrative drive and distracting the reader from the scene at hand.
    For me, and many editors, deep third is better as a cricket position than a grammatical POV. I see a lot of it’s misuse in mss. It regularly creates both formatting (use of italics) and grammatical difficulties (usually tense) for writers, and on top of that, in the hands of novices, it often is insulting to the reader, trying to over-direct their response.
    I find over-explanation to be the principle use of this technique and would recommend writers be very sparing in its use, unless your intent is to annoy your readers. If you want to put them off a character, fine. Working motivation into regular 3rd or 1st person without beating the reader over the head with a character directing us how to think is part of the skill of good writing. Reasonable delineation, so that it doesn’t clog the storyline (in fact it’s usually invisible to the reader) but does let us know who is speaking/thinking etc, is also a skill worth learning. What does clog the pace of the story, and it’s becoming particularly prevalent in self-published e-books, is constantly being told what a character is thinking i.e. how the reader should be thinking/responding. I’m not saying deep third should never be used, just be careful where it may take you and don’t neglect the traditional skills.

  12. Actually Deep pov is so much more then removing just filter words. You have to stay in all times in the pov of the character your in during that chapter. (You can switch to another pov just make sure readers have had time to be with the first/main pov for a few chapters first.)

    The thoughts need to be like our own thoughts as does anything happening to the characters. You can pull back if you like to straight third when needed. (Like when they travel and it would be boring explaining everything.)

    This is part of a review a reder did for me on the site I frequent:

    But you did a wonderful job of making it easy to see what is going on in my imagination so it felt as if I, as a reader, were there with the characters!

    I’m so proud! Once people start saying this you know you’re on the right track; there’s always room for improvement though. ^;^

    I love this pov, once you get into it it’s great fun.

  13. What I hate about this pov is trying to find critique partners that know about it and understand that thoughts shouldn’t be put into italics. Well, if that can be avoided that is. I want a critique partner that uses this pov so badly. ;-;

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